DOC NYC 2022 Girls Administrators: Meet Christine Yoo – “26.2 to Life”

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Christine Yoo is a director, producer, author, a volunteer at San Quentin State Jail, and co-founder of the San Quentin Movie Pageant. As a producer she has labored on non-fiction collection for Nationwide Geographic, Historical past, Oxygen, and PBS, amongst others. Her unbiased work focuses on under-served voices. Profession highlights embody the documentary brief “A Dialog With Claudia,” a particular mission for P.S.1/Museum of Fashionable Artwork (MoMA), serving as co-writer of the cult anime collection “Afro Samurai”, and directing, producing, and co-writing the award-winning Korean-American rom-com “Wedding ceremony Palace.” 26.2 to Life” is Yoo’s first function documentary.

“26.2 to Life” is screening on the 2022 DOC NYC movie pageant, which is working from November 9-27.

W&H: Describe the movie for us in your individual phrases.

CY: “26.2 TO LIFE” tells the story of three incarcerated males convicted of homicide who’re members of the 1000 Mile Membership, a protracted distance working membership at San Quentin State Jail, which is organized and coached by veteran, volunteer marathoners who come into the jail to coach and exercise with the incarcerated runners. The membership’s working season culminates in an annual marathon, 105 grueling laps across the jail yard.

This movie captures the marathon inside California’s oldest jail and explores what introduced these males to the beginning line at San Quentin on and off the monitor. Although they’re linked by absentee fatherism, multi-generational incarceration, the criminalization of race and poverty, and the battle for freedom, Markelle Taylor, Rahsaan Thomas, and Tommy Lee Wickerd every have distinctive tales to inform.

The marathon serves as a metaphor for the way these males strategy dwelling life with a life sentence. I used to be impressed to inform the story of the 1000 Mile Membership as a result of their story was one among redemption and resilience, and it confirmed me that people can and do make a distinction, that change is feasible and it’s taking place. 

W&H: What drew you to this story?

CY: Over 20 years in the past, I grew to become pals with Hyun Kang, a fellow Korean-American who might’ve simply been my brother — however he discovered himself sentenced to life in a California State Jail with none hope of ever getting out earlier than he died. I’ve at all times been considering social justice points, and specifically these regarding the felony authorized system, however till that point, I had not identified anybody personally who had been in jail. My good friend’s expertise made me assume rather more deeply concerning the influence of incarceration, not solely on the person and their household, but in addition on the bigger neighborhood. It additionally made me wish to perceive how individuals who anticipate to be in jail for all times discover methods to proceed dwelling.

The chance to discover that query got here to me after I learn an article in GQ concerning the 1000 Mile Membership. I knew instantly that I needed to make a movie concerning the marathon. I couldn’t get Van Gogh’s Prisoners Exercising” out of my head. I’ve skilled “runner’s excessive” and the sense of freedom that comes from working and will think about how helpful that might be to folks in jail. What I didn’t but perceive was how essential a task working and a working neighborhood might play within the course of of non-public and social transformation. 

I’ve a story background and was going to write down a story script. However after I started researching, speaking with the coaches, at the moment and previously incarcerated members of the membership and going contained in the jail, I used to be compelled to inform this story as a documentary as a result of I felt folks wanted to listen to what I used to be listening to straight from the supply.

W&H: What would you like folks to consider after they watch the movie?

CY: I hope the movie will spark dialogue about our strategy to incarceration, rehabilitation, and neighborhood engagement. The 1000 Mile Membership taught me that, with help, rehabilitation is a sensible purpose and it may well change the jail system and our relationship to it as we all know it.

My staff hopes the movie will encourage new 1000 Mile Working Golf equipment in additional prisons and communities throughout the nation and we’re making a toolkit to facilitate that purpose.

W&H: What was the largest problem in making the movie?

CY: The toughest factor about capturing in a jail and telling a narrative that required multiple-entry entry over a protracted time frame was not realizing the subsequent time we might get entry to shoot. Additionally, we knew lockdowns might occur at any time, and nothing is assured, so each second inside counted. This was additional difficult by the truth that I didn’t have contact with topics the day earlier than capturing, so plans needed to be made nicely upfront. Usually I requested Marion, Tommy’s spouse, to assist coordinate shoots, particularly after we shot contained in the cell block or areas off the monitor. She would relay the schedule to Tommy after which Tommy would share it with the remainder of the blokes. 

Rigorously planning what gear to take inside was at all times a precedence. First off, having gear on a truck or in a holding space to entry is unimaginable, so every thing we took inside we carted round in rolling laundry hampers so we might be cellular. Contained in the cell block, it was fairly darkish and there was a really restricted quantity of house to maneuver, so we needed to be improvisational and versatile. 

On race days we had multiple-camera protection and a number of other discipline groups gathering footage, however with out entry to walkie-talkies contained in the jail, we needed to cowl a sporting occasion with out the advantage of fast communication among the many groups. We needed to have very detailed plans entering into about who was doing what and when. There was a variety of consulting with the Coach about what he thought would occur, so we operated on some assumptions entering into but in addition needed to be prepared to reply spontaneously.

W&H: How did you get your movie funded? Share some insights into how you bought the movie made.

CY: That is the primary time I’ve helmed a function size documentary, so I knew I’d have to lift the funds independently. We initiated manufacturing by means of a profitable Kickstarter marketing campaign, and raised cash by means of donations, grants, and traders as we went alongside.

Additionally, I did a variety of capturing and enhancing myself and did a variety of discipline work with affiliate producer Zahava Hirsch capturing sound and getting as a lot footage as we might collectively, which saved some huge cash.

I’m grateful to everybody who took this journey with me and was concerned in making and finishing this movie.

W&H: What impressed you to change into a filmmaker?

CY: In some unspecified time in the future once I was rising up, I seen I by no means noticed individuals who have been Asian on TV or in films and I cherished TV and films! Through the uncommon prevalence when Asians have been on TV, their portrayals have been distorted and felt international to me and the world I inhabited as an Asian American. On the identical time, I used to be at all times concerned within the arts rising up. I used to be a aggressive piano participant, painted, and had carried out a little bit of theater.

I had at all times needed to attempt performing and thought I had probability of being forged within the upcoming native theater manufacturing of “The King & I” as one of many King’s youngsters as a result of they have been alleged to be Asian. Past the truth that a lot of the youngsters forged have been white, I keep in mind getting offended about the truth that as an Asian, my world of potential appeared so restricted. It was incidents equivalent to that that finally drove me to change into a storyteller.

W&H: What’s the very best and worst recommendation you’ve acquired?

CY: My Dad at all times informed me, “Fall down seven instances, stand up eight instances.” I’ll remind myself of this when issues aren’t going my method.

The worst recommendation is being informed to surrender when confronted with adversity or to not pursue one thing I care about.

W&H: What recommendation do you’ve for different girls administrators? 

CY: If in case you have a movie you wish to direct, exit and make it. Don’t ask for permission and educate your self as finest as you possibly can on funds and legalities. However I might inform that to any director, feminine or male.

The one factor I might add particularly for a feminine director is that your journey will almost definitely be tougher than that of our male counterparts, so collaborate with individuals who could have your again by means of the powerful instances. For this movie, I put collectively an all-female producing staff and it was an extremely collaborative atmosphere. 

W&H: Title your favourite woman-directed movie and why.

CY: I actually loved “Nomadland” by Chloé Zhao for its humanity and scope, and it meant so much to me when she gained the Oscar for Greatest Director.

W&H: What, if any, obligations do you assume storytellers should confront the tumult on the planet, from the pandemic to the lack of abortion rights and systemic violence?

CY: I really feel a accountability to concentrate on tales of underrepresented voices. However I don’t view it as a burden in any method; it brings me pleasure and function to have the ability to inform and share tales that will stay unknown or hidden if my digital camera wasn’t there.

The last word hope is that “26.2 to Life” can carry consciousness and spark dialogue about rehabilitation and reimagining our jail system.

W&H: The movie trade has a protracted historical past of underrepresenting folks of shade onscreen and behind the scenes and reinforcing — and creating — unfavourable stereotypes. What actions do you assume should be taken to make Hollywood and/or the doc world extra inclusive?

CY: My reply to the trade’s historical past of underrepresentation has merely been to carve out my very own path. The very best factor I can do to enhance this example is to be my very own individual and observe by means of on my imaginative and prescient. For this movie, we put a variety of thought into casting and ensuring that there was various illustration of topics and storylines. My core producing staff was additionally all feminine. So it’s very attainable that initiatives will be made to mirror extra range within the office and spotlight non-traditional views, nevertheless it must be a precedence of the staff and filmmaker to do that. 



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